Please stop that veldfire madness

Please stop the veldfire madness!

By Steve Ephraem

CHIPINGE and Chimanimani districts are losing thousands of hectares of forests to veldfires.

I travel between Chipinge and Chimanimani regularly whenever duty calls. What I witnessed from October 16 to 22 this year is a real disaster.

It was fire after fire in the timber plantations between Silver Stream and Runhowani in Chimanimani. It was hard to believe that, after the divastating Tropical Cyclone Idai which hit the region in March 2019, there are still some people who have the guts to light a match stick to ravage a forest.

Tropical Cyclone Idai killed more than 250 people in Zimbabwe and left thousands others injured. The natural phenomenon also destroyed people’s livelihoods. No one doubts that Idai was a direct effect of climate change, which is caused by destruction of the environment.

Idai wasn’t a joke but a catastrophe that set a record for the century.

To those who lost a relative to Cyclone Idai or have missing relatives or friends, climate change is a real enemy. They wish climate change could be mitigated for good.

There are varied theories on the Chimanimani forest fires. Some claim that the fires started accidentally. Others say that the issue of land dispute is at play. They claim that some who lost out land allocation are “revenging” their losses by setting the forests on fire.

Whatever might be the reason, forest fires must stop at all cost.

Our memories are still fresh with the ordeal of Tropical Cyclone Idai. And contributing to acts which promote climate change is real madness.

A few years ago, we saw Chimanimani losing more than 1 000 ha and Chipinge more than 500ha of commercial forests in what people termed as revenge for “labour disputes.”

If people take the arsonists as heroes, then something is amis with us. Considering arson as media for dialogue between grumbling workers and management or land disputes is a weakness. There are better avenues of seeking dialogue.

Can all that choking smoke substitute dialogue? Moreover, does it add improvement in the grieving party? Do we understand how the arson act has a negative impact on Zimbabwean economy?

One forestry expert ushered this advice: “Forests are a strategic resource. Timber plantations are only found in the Eastern Highlands of Zimbabwe. What happens in Manicaland with regards to timber management will affect the whole of the country.

“For one to build a house say in Binga or Lupane, the timber has to be acquired from Manicaland. The destruction or poor management of forests is a major blow to the economy of Zimbabwe.”

The main reason why people should protect forests is that our lives and that of other species depend on them. Setting a forest on fire is like signing own death warranty. How can one get satisfaction in destroying the source of our oxygen?

With this madness, do we really have a future?

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